Results tagged berries from David Lebovitz

Stockholm

Swedish potatoes
Swedish bread ring

I had no idea what to expect when I planned a trip to Sweden. I think it was a friendly discussion between friends when we decided it would be interesting to go to Fäviken, the famed restaurant northward of Stockholm. (I’ll do a separate post on that since it was such a unique experience.) So we made a reservation, then decided to spend a few days before and after, wandering around Stockholm, seeing what’s good to eat in the Swedish capital.

Stockholm phone boothSwedish bread
swedish cookiesgrain bread at Scandic in Stockholm

There is a lot of talk of the new “Nordic” cuisine – which often uses old-style techniques for cooking, and celebrates traditional ingredients, reviving some that were in the process of disappearing. Other chefs are exciting diners with unexpected flavors and combinations. This modern cuisine sometimes relies on smoking, grilling, and cooking over fire. I was pretty excited to go and see what these young chefs were doing, but I was also interested in tasting anything that was traditionally Swedish as well, including the breads and confections.

organic flour & grains

One the whole, we ate very well. I’ve posted a few tips at the end for making a visit to Stockholm a bit easier on the budget. There were a lot of details on the plates during a few of the most lengthy meals. At those places, meals were meant to be experienced, and are not easily written about. But I was just has happy pulling up to a market counter and downing a plate of Swedish meatballs and lingonberries. Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

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Fraises des bois

fraises des bois

When I worked as a baker in California, we’d get three flats of fraises des bois (“strawberries of the woods”, or wild strawberries) for a few precious weeks in the summer, cultivated by a woman who lived about an hour north of San Francisco. Each intensely flavored berry, no bigger than the tip of a pencil eraser, had to be hand-picked and took someone nearly an hour to collect one basket’s worth of them. I don’t remember the exact price of each basket that we paid (was it $6 ?), but they were expensive back in the 80s. Added to that, you must use fraises the bois the same day you get them because they break down pretty quickly, and by the next day, it’s too late to serve them fresh. A few times when I drove up there to pick them up, the heady smell of the tiny, wild strawberries in my car drove me nearly insane.

(I’d often stop on the way home from work really late at night to pick up some local barbecue, and that had the same effect. More than once, I’d have to pull over the grab a rib because the smell driving home was driving me out of my mind, which – I guess – seems to be a theme in my life…the losing my mind part, not just the driving around with food in the car business.)

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Red Currant Jam

made in francered currant jam recipe
red currants in potfrench country

I’ve been feeling a little removed for just about everything lately. Mired in administrative stuff, I’ve been swamped with paperwork and technical issues – neither of which are really my thing – and haven’t been able to spend all that much time cooking or baking, except for regular meals. (And, er, copious snacking in between.) I’ve really missed sticking my hands in doughs and batters and was happy when I took a break from technology and the staggering amount of paperwork that seems to arrive faster than I can process it, and headed out to the countryside.

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Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

strawberries

I was thinking of having “If you change the ingredients in a recipe, results will vary” tattooed on my forehead, but there wasn’t enough room. (Although if my hairline keeps receding at this rapid pace, it may happen sooner than you think.) When I used to teach classes, folks were always wanting to tinker with recipes, especially ice cream, replacing the cream with what-have-you. Or to replace the sugar with something else. I’m not sure why, because I spend an inordinate amount of my life developing and testing recipes to get them just right.

strawberries

Unless I’ve personally tested it, it’s pretty hard to give my nod of approval and tell what will and what won’t work in recipes, especially when it comes to swapping out sweeteners and dairy products since their counterparts behave quite differently than one might think. Ice cream, of course, depends on cream to give it that particular texture and flavor. But I do like and use non-dairy alternatives at home on occasion and saw no reason why I couldn’t churn up a batch of ice cream without a drop of dairy.

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Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam Recipe

strawberries

Do you know what media training is? If you don’t, it’s when they teach people to behave on television and radio. They work with politicians, business executives, and, of course, in this day and age, they work with a lot people (and I mean, a lot…) that are involved in corporate and celebrity crisis control. But there’s a special group of media trainers that teach you how to cook on television, which is trickier than just sitting there getting grilled by Stephen Colbert, I’m sure of that.

Cooking on tv is much harder, because instead of just sitting there having a casual chat, you need to be fielding all sorts of goofy questions at the same time as measuring out and explaining fourteen different ingredients to the weatherman, wondering where that damn spatula is and how you’re going to fold egg whites without one, cursing yourself because you forgot to turn off your cell which is vibrating like mad in your back pocket, trying to get the name of the book you’re supposed to be promoting into the conversation when the seriously-skinny host only wants to talk about her diet, and watching out of the corner of your eye because the camera crew is impatiently waiting for you to finish so they can pounce on your brownies.

About ten years ago I had media training, a one-on-one weekend where it was just me and the media trainer—who basically yelled at me for 48 hours, non-stop.

In fact, I think he blew out my left eardrum.

Continue Reading Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam Recipe…

Chocolate Dipped White Chocolate-Berry Popsicles

Just dipped popsicle

Of course, I picked the hottest day of the summer to make popsicles. After the success of my Vietnamese coffee popsicles, I thought it’d be fun to try something dipped in chocolate.

In retrospect, am I insane?

chocolate enrobage

Our summer in Paris has been uneven; some cool days, and a few nice warm ones. Unfortunately the day I decided to make chocolate-dipped popsicles was the one day the temperature in my apartment shot up to 98F degrees (37C). But I’ll stop talking about the weather since there’s only one thing more boring that people talking about the weather, and that’s having to listen to someone recount their dreams for 15 minutes while you sit there and pretend to be interested.

I could never be a therapist—obviously.

Continue Reading Chocolate Dipped White Chocolate-Berry Popsicles…

Respect Your Elderberries: Elderberry Syrup Recipe

peacheselderberries.jpg

During the summer, like everyone else in Paris, I get outta town for a long break. I often visit friends who live in the country in nearby in the Seine-et-Marne, a region a little over an hour from Paris.

You probably know about the famous cheese from there, brie de Meaux, which is sold in big, gooey rounds at most of the markets in the area. There’s a big one on Sunday mornings in Coulommiers, but I prefer the smaller but better market on Saturdays, in the town of Provins, which features actual producteurs, the folks who grow and sell their own fruits and légumes.

strawberriesunwashed1

Elderberries are pretty prolific and although I’ve not seen them in any markets, the friends who I stay with have a huge tree and if you’re a spry climber, you probably can pick more than you know what to do with all at once.

The difficulty in preparing elderberries, or as they call them in France, sureaux, are picking the tiny berries off the microfiber-like stems. (Earlier in the season, the blossoms can be turned into elderflower fritters or elderflower syrup.) The berries appear in spidery tufts on the farthest end of the branches and I nearly chopped down my friend’s tree trying to get the ripest berries way-high up at the top. And I almost killed myself using their pre-war ladder…and that’s pre World War I, mind you.

Elderberries

But I need to keep busy even when I’m relaxing on vacation, which is my very own French-American paradox, and when I saw the giant elderberry tree practically awash with tiny purple berries behind the house I was staying at, I couldn’t resist hauling out the ladder and spending a good couple of hours clipping away. Unfortunately the berries that caught my eye were higher up than I thought from down below, and I ended up perched too-high up on that rickety ladder with a saw and clippers, risking my life for the little buggers.

Sureaux

The gorgeous syrup is great in a glass of sparkling water over ice, dripped some over plain yogurt, atop a bowl of vanilla ice cream, or use it to make an lively kir. And hello pancakes and waffles! You can also use the berries to make Elderberry jelly.

Cooking Elderberries

Once you get them down off the tree, the fun just keeps coming and coming. You need to pluck the little purple berries off the branches. But too often a little bit of the delicate stem usually comes off with them and that needs to be removed if you’re going to toss them in a compote or a crisp. It’s picky work, but the rewards are delicious.

Elderberry Yogurt

Elderberry Syrup
Makes 1 quart (1l)

Make sure the cookware you’re using is non-reactive and your clothes are stain-friendly. If you use an aluminum pot, it’ll get stained and the next batch of mashed potatoes you make may come out pink. Ditto for spatulas and anything else to plan to use to stir the syrup while it’s cooking.

If you live somewhere where huckleberries are available, you could use them instead.

  • 2-pounds (1kg) elderberries (see note below), woody stems removed and rinsed
  • 4 cups (1l) water
  • 2½ (500g) cups sugar
  • one nice-sized squirt of freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1. Put the elderberries in a large, non-reactive pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, until tender and soft.

2. Pass through a food mill, then discard the skins.

3. Pour the juice back into the pot (I use a fine-mesh strainer again at this point, but I’m crazy…), add sugar, and cook at a low boil over moderate heat for 15 minutes, until the syrup has thickened. Add a spritz of lemon juice. Cool completely.

4. Pour into a bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator.

Note: Some varieties of elderberries are not meant for consumption and none should be eaten raw, especially the leaves. I remove all of the hard, woody stems as well before cooking. For more information, Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture has guidelines, noting the fruits are used in “…pies, jellies and jams.” If you’re unsure if your elderberries are edible, consult your local cooperative extension before consuming.

Storage: In the refrigerator, I’ve kept this syrup up to one year. If it shows any signs of mold, scrape it away, and bring the syrup back to a full boil again.

quince and granola

How to Select Summer Fruits

Apricots

I’m in heaven with all the sensational fruits that explode at the markets every summer. Each shopping trip, I invariably lug back with way too much fruit. But everything looks so good I can’t resist; rosy nectarines, blushing apricots, and crisp, dark cherries.

So to help you choose the best summer fruits, here’s some shopping tips. Best bets are often at Farmer’s Markets, where the growers take primo care of what they’re selling and often they encourage sampling before you buy.

sour cherries

Cherries

The most popular sweet cherry varieties are deep-dark red and plump, with moist, perky stems. Bing cherries are reliably excellent. Although some varieties, like Queen Anne and Rainier, are light red and yellow-colored, they have a more delicate taste, which some people prefer. Cherries should be washed, then stored in the refrigerator. Unlike most other fruits, cherries are more appealing when served very cold and crisp.

Avoid cherries that are wrinkled, which means they were picked a while ago. Split apart cherries means they got wet while growing and will mold quickly.

Mara de Bois

Berries

When buying berries that are packed in plastic or cardboard containers, peek underneath: moisture on the bottom indicates the berries below are soggy or moldy.

Strawberries should be uniformly red with no green at the tips or at the stem. (Did you know the cluster of seeds concentrated at the tip is referred to as a ‘cats nose’?)
Strawberries should have a sweet smell. Some berries have been hybridized to be red on the outside, but disappointingly underripe within, so color’s not always an accurate indication. Avoid buying commercial strawberries after rainy weather: since they grow near the earth, they’re often sprayed with a rather nasty chemical to prevent mold. Look for organic strawberries instead.

If you’re not going to eat strawberries the same day, store them on a plate in the refrigerator, in a single-layer, so they don’t mush each other down.

Raspberries, blueberries, and other bushberries should be plump and dry. Blackberries should be inky-black and a bit soft, never rock-hard. There’s nothing worse than a sour blackberry.

Blueberries should be firm. Most have no fragrance. Did you know that each blueberry can contain up to 100 seeds? If you don’t believe me, slice one open and count. I never wash any berries since they’re too fragile-except blueberries and strawberries.

Can you freeze fresh berries or pitted cherries? Yes. Lay the fruits out in an even layer on a non-reactive baking sheet (or line one with parchment paper.) Freeze. Once frozen, store in zip-top freezer bags. Frozen berries and cherries can be used for sauces, or added frozen mixed with other fruits for pies, crisps, and cobblers.

melons

Melons

It’s been said that finding a good melon is like falling in love. Sometimes you have to try a lot of them to find the right one.

Judy Rodgers in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook insists that the best melons are the ones with lots of netting and claims not to have picked a bad one since learning that. I always take a good sniff. The most amazing melons I’ve tasted were melons that I could smell before I could see them.

Choose a melon that’s heavy and relatively firm, but not-rock hard (except for honeydew melons.) Any mold by the stem end or mushy spots are indications of it being over-the-hill.

A simple melon dessert can be made by pouring sweet wine, such as Muscat or Sauternes, over slices of melon and berries and chilling them well. Store melons in the refrigerator.

Peaches, Elderberries, and Nectarines

Nectarines and Peaches

The best peaches have a sweet, perfumed aroma if you sniff the stem end. Peaches need to be picked a day before ripening, then ripened off the tree. Or better yet, the same day. If they’re too green, they were picked too soon and will never taste good. Ditto for nectarines. Find fruits that are mostly red and blushing.
If faced with a bin of underripe fruits, find one that’s rather soft and smell it. If it smells good, chances are the rest will be too, once ripe.

bag of apricots

Apricots and Plums

Neither of these fruits boast much aroma, but they make up for it with lots of flavor. Apricots should have an appealing blush and no green. Red-tinged apricots means they’ve received lots of sunlight and will likely be good. Apricots are best when they’re gushy-ripe. They should be very soft, like a water balloon. My favorite variety are the Royal and Blenheim apricots.

Most of the flavor in plums are in the skin, and they make the best jam, especially when mixed with raspberries. Santa Rosa and Elephant Heart plums are reliably good.

Baked apricots are a superb, easy dessert: simply halve ripe, but firm apricots, place face-down in a baking dish, pour in a wine glass of white wine (dry or sweet), and drizzle with a copious amount of honey (use more than you think, as apricots get quite tart when cooked.) You can add a split vanilla bean too. Bake until the apricots are tender and juicy.

Delicious with vanilla ice cream!

Fruit Recipes

Baked Nectarines and Cherries

Berry Cobbler

Candied Cherries

Cranberry Raisin Pie

Lemon Tart

Persimmon Bread

Polenta Crisp Topping

Quince tarte Tatin

Red Wine-Poached Rhubarb

Rosy Poached Quince

Tropical Fruit Soup

Vanilla-Poached Quince

Warm Compote of Summer Fruits